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NOAA announces historic funding for fish habitats across U.S.

Bipartisan Infrastructure Law will help recover endangered fish; prioritize tribal communities

Construction at the Madison Electric Works Dam removal site on Oregon’s Sandy River, from August 2006. (NOAA)
Construction at the Madison Electric Works Dam removal site on Oregon’s Sandy River, from August 2006. (NOAA)

Today, NOAA Fisheries announced nearly $105 million in funding for 36 new fish passage projects under the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law, including significant funding to implement fish passage projects that meet tribal priorities and build tribal organizational capacity to support their role as stewards of tribal resources. This historic level of funding will reopen migratory pathways and restore access to habitat for fish and other species across the country. 

Through this funding, NOAA prioritized projects that demonstrate a broad base of stakeholder and community support and were developed with inclusive practices to engage a diverse range of community groups. Selected projects will span the full range of fish passage types, including dam removals, fish ladders, culvert improvements and in-stream fish passage improvements.

“The Bipartisan Infrastructure Law provides a once-in-a-generation opportunity to enhance our investment in our nation’s fisheries, protected resources and coastal communities — and ensure that tribes and underserved communities see the results,” said Secretary of Commerce Gina Raimondo. “Not only will these projects assist in supporting sustainable fisheries and recovering endangered fish species, they will also provide community and economic benefits, such as jobs, recreational opportunities and climate resilience.” 

Fifteen of the projects — encompassing more than $26.3 million in funding — will be led by tribal applicants for fish passage. Many of the remaining projects are aligned with tribal priorities, with tribes playing key roles in decision-making, building capacity to help recover tribally-important migratory fish and providing community and economic benefits such as jobs and training opportunities. 

“Investments in the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law to support fish passage and sustainable commercial, recreational and tribal fisheries are critical to building a Climate-Ready Nation,” said NOAA Administrator Rick Spinrad, Ph.D. “The projects supported by this funding will help communities adapt to a changing climate by supporting healthy ecosystems and infrastructure that works for people and fish.”

At this point in the selection process, the application approval and obligation of funds are not final. Each application is being “recommended” for funding. This announcement is not an authorization to start the project and is not a guarantee of funding.

“From Alaska to North Carolina, this unprecedented investment will create new opportunities for migratory fish to thrive, bringing a host of benefits to tribes and communities across the nation,” said Janet Coit, assistant administrator for NOAA Fisheries, acting assistant secretary of commerce for oceans and atmosphere, and deputy NOAA administrator. “I can’t say enough about the quality and importance of these fish passage projects. NOAA staff are rolling up their sleeves and continuing to work with a broad spectrum of partners to see these federal funds put into action.” 

Fish passage is about improving access for fish to the habitat(s) they need or reconnecting access to historic habitat blocked by humans. Migratory fish like salmon require access to high quality rearing and spawning habitats, and unimpeded migratory corridors, to be successful and resilient. When fish cannot access their habitat, they cannot rear, reproduce and grow their populations, resulting in population declines. NOAA works to reopen these migratory pathways, restoring access to healthy habitat for fish. For many tribes, fish passage and access remains a major limiting factor towards rebuilding fish populations. This funding will help reopen migratory pathways and reconnect fish with their historic habitat, which is a critical step towards rebuilding fisheries back to healthy levels.      

NOAA’s Office of Habitat Conservation has a long history of conducting habitat restoration efforts, including fish passage, by executing large-scale competitive funding opportunities and providing expert technical assistance through NOAA’s Community-based Restoration Program.

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